Roses of Britain
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity; +2 Constitution or +2 Charisma
Speed: 6 squares
Languages: English, choice of one other
Skill Bonuses: +2 Acrobatics, +2 Thievery
Bold: See Player’s Handbook pg. 44 or Heroes of the Fallen Lands pg. 266.
Nimble Reaction: See Player’s Handbook pg. 44 or Heroes of the Fallen Lands pg. 266.
Second Chance: See Player’s Handbook pg. 44 or Heroes of the Fallen Lands pg. 266.
The oral history of the halflings is justifiably renowned for its breadth and depth, but that history has little to say on the matter of the race’s creation. It is widely thought that halflings and humans share the same ancestors, although which race is lessened by this commonality is a matter of opinion. (See Humans for more details on the origin of those ancestors.) In the most popular halfling legend, an unnamed fey prince taught his favorite human clan a trick that halved their physical size, and thereby enhanced their ability to survive by stealth and guile in a hostile wilderness. Halfling lorekeepers often assert that this split from humankind occurred 20,000 years ago, but this number appears to have been settled upon primarily for its roundness. Regardless, it is known that halflings clans were dwelling alongside humans on the bitter tundras of northern and central Europe as early as 17,000 years ago.
The ebbing of the Long Winter opened up Albion to settlement around 13,500 years ago, and halflings were among the first races to find their way there from Gaul. The race’s ancient roots in Albion are a deep source of pride for the halflings, who delight in tweaking the elves as late-comers for their arrival a “mere” 10,000 years ago. Following their migration to Albion, the halflings quickly found a home in her coastal marshes and along her abundant rivers, where they thrived as foragers and fisherfolk. Eventually the race followed the lead of their human neighbors and began to assume a more settled way of life, adopting their knowledge of farming, herding, and commerce. Over the millennia, halflings established friendly relations with the elves of Albion, often serving as conciliators between this race and humankind.
Much of what is known of Albion’s history prior to the Roman conquest in the first century A.D. is derived from halfling oral traditions. Only the eladrin maintained a written record during this era, and their history contains little mention of events outside their brightholds. Halfling history, by comparison, is staggeringly detailed, although often lacking in coherence and prone to digression. Much to the exasperation of human chroniclers, halfling history devotes significant attention to seemingly banal matters. Halfling lorekeepers have passed down vivid tales of war and rebellion, but also a bewildering body of knowledge regarding the damming of streams, the migration patterns of shorebirds, and the genealogies of endless and apparently unremarkable halfling families.
This eccentric approach to history reflects the removed stance that Albion’s halflings have always assumed towards the march of human civilization. Halflings have preferred to avoid entangling themselves in the political and military struggles of humankind, even as they closely observe the lessons of those struggles. In the past thousand years, the halflings have cultivated a reputation as trustworthy and unassuming subjects of England’s human monarch. The race’s occasional conflicts with the Crown are almost always rooted in overreach and greed on the part of the king. When King John seized ancient halfling-held river crossings in the thirteenth century and declared them royal possessions, most members of the race joined the First Baron’s War against the king.
Place in the World
England’s halflings follow a way of life that has not changed significantly in thousands of years, despite the onward and upward progress of the human civilization that surrounds them. The race has no taste for the construction of grand structures or monuments, or for the acquisition of political power or great wealth. Most halflings prefer a peaceful existence of honest work and simple pleasures, close to the meandering streams and lush marshlands that give their race comfort. The race does harbor a compulsion to wander in search of new sights and experiences, which finds its most common expression in the daring exploits of halfling heroes. As a race, halflings tend to be conservative and risk-adverse, but as individuals halflings are often curious, bold, and even downright reckless.
Halflings are more numerous in England and Wales than anywhere else on Earth, partly due to the uncanny fit between the landscape and the race’s natural proclivities. Members of the race dwell throughout central and northern Europe, but England is popularly regarded as the “Halfling Homeland”. Halflings are most numerous in southern England, as it abounds in the settings they favor: quiet streams, rambling rivers, and wide coastal marshes. There they reside in small settlements with their own kind, often near a local human village or elven enclave. Some halflings prefer to dwell in the midst of other races, and the halflings encountered within bustling cities and towns reflect this inclination.
England’s halflings have spent untold generations nurturing close alliances with the other humanoid races of the Kingdom, showing great regard for humans and elves in particular. The time-tested halfling strategy of discretion, deception, and flattery has served the race well, and they have developed a deep reserve of goodwill among the “Big Folk.” However, England’s humans do not always welcome the sight of a halfling, mainly due to the race’s reputation as pickpockets and sneak-thieves. Rural people with livestock and grain to protect often regard halflings as little better than mischief-makers, while the more pitiless members of the nobility are likely to hang a halfling discovered on their lands as a preventative measure.
The greatest halfling heroes are usually rogues or chaos sorcerers, but the race also thrives on the path of the bard, paladin, ranger, or warlock. Halfling paladins elicit jokes in some quarters, but in remote rural areas of England they reflect the legacy of ancient compacts between halfling elders and local parish churches. In general, however, halflings do not put a great deal of stock in matters of faith. The vast majority of English halflings are nominally Christian, reflecting not so much a deep conviction as a desire to smooth relations with local humans. The rare halfling with more profound religious faith usually reveres Jesus or St. Benedict. Halflings that dwell in close proximity to pagan elves usually venerate Lleu or Lludd, for similar practical reasons.